Oct. 5 - Hungary's gambling industry is furious at a new law banning slot machines in pubs and cafes with almost immediate effect. Ivor Bennett reports.
Slot machines in Hungary have been banned in an effort by the government to tackle gambling addiction. Casinos aren't restricted but machines in pubs and cafes will be removed. The new law's angered an industry set to lose billions in Forints. Gambling Association President Istvan Schreiber says it'll also put thousands of people out of work. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) PRESIDENT OF HUNGARIAN GAMBLING ASSOCIATION ISTVAN SCHREIBER SAYING: "We are crushed by this. We have been in this business for 23 years. We have more than 40,000 employees working in 1,100 companies, and we have been present at 18,000 outlets, - now all these people will lose their jobs." MPs passed the new law by over 96% - the sudden vote coming just days after the ban was proposed. State Secretary Janos Lazar says it's to prevent poor Hungarians from losing their money to addiction. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) STATE SECRETARY JANOS LAZAR SAYING: "The fact that there is a chance for gambling in every Hungarian pub on every corner and people can spend, without any limit, their social and unemployment benefits or earnings on gambling, on top of alcohol, has been a completely unprincipled and disgraceful act from previous Hungarian governments." Gambling was a lucrative income for the state - with the ban set to lower tax revenues by 135 million dollars. The government plans to recoup the loss by taxing online gambling instead. But investors doubt it'll work. Laurus CEO Tibor Valint warns players will gamble illegally before doing so online. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) CEO OF LAURUS INVEST HUNGARY TIBOR VALINT SAYING: "There are already many illegal poker rooms throughout the country in various places from flats to garages, and naturally many investors and players will now go onto the illegal black market, which is uncontrolled and brings no tax revenue at all." Similar laws in Russia and Slovakia gave investors 3 years to make a transition. The ban in Hungary is expected to take effect next week. Ivor Bennett Reuters